Freedom Summer 50 Years Later

I’m sure it related to them wanting to feel human. Or perhaps be recognized for breath. That stuff that holds shoulders high and chins parallel to horizons. Yearning for something opposite of sleeping with one eye open. The word next to God was “freedom”. If we re-member correctly, it still should be.

On the heels of so many other campaigns such as Little Rock’s desegregation of schools. After the world saw the body of Emmett Till. After the Montgomery bus boycott. After the sit-in’s in Greensboro and Nashville. After the Birmingham bombing of the 16th Street Baptist church and the infamous March on Washington. Stood Mississippi… gotdamn. The campaign known as Freedom Summer began the planning phases in February of 1964. It continued the original demonstration designed by the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee that organized a mock “Freedom Vote” to illustrate the will of Black Mississippians to vote who had a 5% voting rate for African Americans over the age of 18. (The lowest in the country.) Freedom Summer campaigned an attempt to register as many African-American voters as possible in Mississippi and also organize Freedom Houses, Freedom Schools, and resource centers in small towns throughout Mississippi to aid the local black population.

freedom summer

When I speak of this to the younger generation, it seems so “taken for granted” or so, “matter of factly”. But I wonder what the stats would be if we took a poll of the percent of registered voters today? Regardless, this remembrance is vital.

From the book, Freedom Summer by Doug McAdam, many of Mississippi’s white residents deeply resented the outsiders and any attempt to change their society. Locals routinely harassed volunteers. Newspapers called them “unshaven and unwashed trash.” Their presence in local black communities sparked drive-by shootings, Molotov cocktails, and constant harassment. This included:

four civil rights workers were killed (one in a head-on collision)
at least three Mississippi blacks were murdered because of their support for the civil rights movement
four people were critically wounded
80 Freedom Summer workers were beaten
1,062 people were arrested (out-of-state volunteers and locals)
37 churches were bombed or burned
30 Black homes or businesses were bombed or burned

freedom summer murders

All of this because of the simple yearning to level out one’s chest. Or to be recognized for that stuff that holds shoulders high and chins parallel to horizons. Breathe.

Today began that journey down in Mississippi. Freedom Summer re-membered.

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